His Deceased Wife’s Picture is on the Fireplace. Should I Ask Him to Remove it?

Dr. Wendy Walsh Dr. Wendy Walsh • 9/25/14

Reader Question:

I have been single for years! I’m ready to have a relationship again, and I’m not getting younger! I have met a perfect guy. We both have been widowed for more than six years. I put my pictures away but not my memories.

I am concerned because he has his wife’s picture hanging over the fireplace, and he asked me to accept that it won’t be removed. I know he loved her, and I would never ask him to deny it.

I don’t feel comfortable. I think I will feel like I’m the third person. I don’t know how to feel about it. Can I get some advice here?

Alondra H. (Montana)

Dr. Wendy Walsh’s Answer:

This is a delicate question and one that I get a lot. I’d like you to reframe your idea of this photograph. The woman above the fireplace is not his living, breathing wife. She is a symbol of the loving attachment this man is able to form.

He takes his commitments very seriously. This is a good thing! He may also be worried about the feelings of adult children who might see the missing photo as their mother being replaced.

Back when I was a news reporter, I did a profile on a retired Air Force colonel who had made the jump to Internet entrepreneur. His wife hosted our television crew at their home and when I asked if she could give us an on-camera “soundbyte” about his home life, she very gracefully declined by explaining that they were newlyweds and there was another woman who had stood behind that man for 28 years before she died of breast cancer.  This made the colonel give her a big hug and insist that she appear with him on camera.

My advice to you: Don’t look at his late wife as a threat. See her as an ally. Removing a photograph won’t take away his memories, but it might drive a wedge in a budding relationship with a commitment-oriented man.

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